Is Michael Penix Jr. the most polarizing quarterback prospect ever? 

He has a strong case.

Appearing on "The Rich Eisen Show," Bruce Feldman of The Athletic suggested some people in the NFL think he'll ultimately be a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Others think -- ready for this? -- he could go undrafted. 

Feldman is one of the most plugged-in, no-nonsense college football reporters in the country, so such a profound statement based on what he's hearing carries significant weight at the outset of the pre-draft process. 

Wide disparity of opinions on prospects are a core element of the NFL Draft. Disparity of opinion on a singular prospect is almost never that wide. Especially a quarterback. 

In my scouting gradebook, I grade on what I witness on film and what transpires for prospects at the combine and pro days. Nothing else. Based on what Penix showcased at Washington in 2022 and 2023, he absolutely is a draftable prospect. In fact, my current, pre-combine grade is very close to the grade I had on current Titans quarterback Will Levis a year ago. So he's well in the clear. 

But Penix has three factors fighting against him. And any one, some or all of them could ultimately contribute to him slipping out of the draft completely. And they're all connected. 

At the end, I'll give my final take on whether or not Penix will go undrafted.


I'm starting with what I've always been told is the most overlooked but still vital portion of the NFL Combine. It's also the most mysterious.

The medicals. 

All prospects go through physicals by NFL doctors at the combine. Some teams have different thresholds for what they deem a medical red flag. 

The vast majority of the 300-plus prospects at the combine each year are cleared by doctors. A few aren't, and, sensibly, for certain teams, those prospects drop down the board. Sometimes, they're removed completely. 

And Penix's case is a rare one. While we watched him play two years at Washington relatively unscathed, his long collegiate career included four season-ending injuries. Two ACL tears and two shoulder injuries -- to each arm. Remember, Penix was a true freshman at Indiana all the way back in 2018. And it not only impacted Penix physically, but mentally. 

This from the Sporting News via a Pac-12 Network interview with the quarterback on his demeanor in 2021:

"There were times when I'd wake up the day of the game and I'd wait until my roommate leaves, and I'd just lie on the floor, and I'd just cry to God, just praying that he'd protect me that day because I knew where my head was at at the time, and it wasn't truly fresh," Penix said, adding that there were "a lot of tears."

Now, to me, Penix finishing his college career with two "healthy" seasons -- he was injured in the national title game, the extent of which is unknown -- is a plus on his resume. But the quartet of serious past injuries could linger and impact how teams view his chances to be a long-term option at quarterback in the NFL.

Because of that, I won't be surprised if a few teams remove Penix from their boards completely given his vast injury past.  

And frankly, with medicals essentially the only part of the pre-draft process not broadcast to a national audience, and, of course, mostly kept secret, it'll be nearly impossible to know the number of teams tag Penix a huge medical flight risk and remove him from their boards. 

This is, by far, the most "dangerous" component that could spark a Penix freefall on draft weekend. 

Lack of athleticism

I'll come right out with it -- Penix is a lower-level athlete by today's standard at quarterback in the NFL. Is that natural or a residual effect of his injuries? 

Either way, when compared to his contemporaries like Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels and Bo Nix, Penix falls noticeably short in that key attribute of playing the quarterback position. 

Of course, being a high-level athlete has only recently, in the last 5-10 years, become a key attribute at quarterback. Before that, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers ruled the NFL with minimal mobility. 

Now, Penix isn't a total statue in the pocket, incapable of sliding away from pressure, or escaping to move the chains with his legs on, say, third-and-5. In short, his athleticism grade is certainly not "undraftable" in my estimation, and I'd be shocked if any teams view it as such. 


Penix was in the same high-school recruiting class as Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields. 

He turns 24 in early May. 

In the pre-COVID world, this would've been deemed a major problem. Finishing a rookie contract near the age of 30?! Yikes. But, as we witnessed with the likes of Joe Burrow, who turned 24 in his rookie NFL season, and Kenny Pickett, who celebrated his 24th birthday in June after being the only quarterback picked in the first round of his draft two years ago, most of the NFL has altered its thoughts on age with prospects, even passers. 

The paraphrased version of what I was told a year ago at the combine by a scouting source was that many players took advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID, and there was nothing the league could do about the elevated age of prospects as a byproduct of it. And as it pertained to quarterbacks, there's such a shortage of great ones, teams simply couldn't ignore talent at the position because of the collectively older age at the position entering the league.

And that all makes sense.

Some clubs will ding Penix for his age -- he's two years older than Maye. But it's not as if he's an outlier relative to the ages of many quarterback prospects of the past few draft classes. Penix isn't "undraftably old." 


While the medical element will be ominous all the way through draft weekend for Penix and his chances to be drafted, I'll be floored if he's not selected with one of the nearly 260 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. 

And, really, if there's a league-wide consensus that Penix's body is simply damaged goods, and every doctor agrees he'll be physically incapable of playing football at the next level -- those blanket statements would be exceptionally rare -- we'll know about before the draft begins in late April. 

Penix does have two things going for him to be picked -- and picked rather high, honestly -- his film is darn good, and he plays quarterback. Even if he slips beyond the first round, the potential added value to an NFL team if Penix hits is drastically larger than, say, a third-round defensive tackle. Rolling the dice on a mid-to-late round quarterback is smarter than doing so on any other position.

And, yes, there is still a shortage of truly awesome quarterbacks in the NFL. Teams know that. Some will be scared by Penix's medicals, his lacking athleticism, and age. But he is a draftable prospect. And with the draft, it only takes one team for a prospect to be picked.